This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.
A while back, I mentioned how I build my own price book. While this is a great idea, for most busy people it would take a lot of extra work to execute it. However, I know from personal experience how much money a price book can really save you.
Here’s what I recommend instead: use the basic framework of the price book idea to just identify which local grocery store is cheapest on the items you buy regularly, then stick with that store. For me, identifying the store with the best prices for my purchases saves me about $20 a week over the average store – and it wasn’t the store I thought was cheapest, either.
Here’s what you need to do.
First, identify all of the grocery stores that you’d be willing to shop at. For me, the nearest town with any competitive shopping has a Hy-Vee, a Dahl’s, a Fareway, a Super Target, and a Wal Mart Supercenter, among the ones I would be willing to shop at.
Next, make a list of the twenty or thirty (or more) items you buy regularly. This includes basic food staples like bread, eggs, and cheese to toiletries and other such supplies. List produce, list beverages, list prepackaged meals – whatever it is that you buy regularly. For me, this list ended up with about thirty items on it.
Once you’ve done that, make a regular shopping trip to each of those stores. While there, note the price on each of these items in that store. I found it useful to print off several copies of the list of items, then take a copy of it to each store as I went, so I could jot down the prices. Take down the price of every item on the list – if a store doesn’t carry a particular item, find the closest substitute and note that.
When you’ve done this for each store, just add up the prices of all of the items to get your total for each store – and then you should do your regular shopping at the store with the lowest total. I’ve done this myself, and I discovered that the least expensive store for the items I buy regularly was not the store I expected it to be, and when I switched my regular store I found that my average grocery bill dropped noticeably – about $10 a week. Week in and week out, that adds up to $520 a year, even if you’re focusing entirely on basic ingredients and fresh foods, as I do. I can easily see how the difference might be much more if you buy a lot of prepared food items and sodas and such.
Admittedly, this one will take more than an hour – perhaps as much as two – but the rewards over the long haul can be tremendous.